Jose Molina gave his team a makeover and by beating Mumbai City FC 3-2 his players showed how right the Atletico de Kolkata coach was. After a see-saw first half that had the hosts scoring thrice for the first time in ISL3, Atletico de Kolkata took control of the second where Mumbai City FC were left down by skipper Diego Forlan’s petulance and reduced to 10 men in the 74th minute.
Kinshuk Debnath, Keegan Periera, Jewel Raja had played bit parts or less so far but in a semi-final, Molina showed he believed in them. Goalie Daniel Malo had played only once and was preferred to Debjit Majumder who had played 13 but had problems gripping the ball. Sunil Chhetri may still be struggling to adjust to Mumbai City FC but led by the brilliant Borja Fernandez, all four put in superb defensive shifts. ATK are now a draw away from their second final. (HIGHLIGHTS)
If ATK led at half-time, it was thanks in the main to marquee Helder Postiga and Iain Hume, who was Fernandez’s equivalent in the front third. Postiga made the most of young Mumbai City FC left-back Lalhmangaihsanga’s inexperience to win a penalty which Hume converted. It looked like Postiga had gone down easily but being body-checked on goal route also meant referee Dilan Perera didn’t have too many options.
For ATK’s second goal, it was Hume who sold a dummy that freed Lalrindika Ralte catching Mumbai City FC right-back Sehnaj Singh out of position. Ralte, whose lucky deflection fetched the first goal, drove goalwards and deliberately crossed deep to beat goalie Amrinder Singh and when the ball came off Sammehg Doutie to Hume, he banged home so hard that it could have burst the netting.
Two goals in 10 minutes, the first coming off a counter-attack where ATK showed their preferred way of moving up was by pressuring the Indian full backs, overturned the advantage Mumbai City FC gained through Forlan’s free-kicks nine minute apart. The first time, it was Leonardo Da Costa broke faster that Henrique Sereno and fired an angular delight. The next time, it was central midfielder Gerson Vieira who rose taller than Sereno and headed home.
In that period, Mumbai City FC had pushed ATK deep into their half and showed why they had finished the league phase on top. But the first half had more twists and turns than a labyrinth. One from where ATK managed to find their way out comfortably in the end.